DEAR AMY: Both my husband and I are professionals. We live in a beautiful and affluent part of the country.
We have two sons, ages 14 and 10. Some time ago we discovered that our older son had accessed pornography by creating a false account on our computer. After confessing, he seemed contrite, promised us that he wouldn’t do it again, and we decided to give him another chance.
A few months later we gave him a smartphone for his 14th birthday, but we chose one that didn’t have many bells and whistles. We made him sign the contract, and (just for good measure) I asked my younger son to hold on to the locked phone once the boys came home from school.
I found out yesterday that on the days that my younger son was at school for after-school activities, my older son was home watching porn. My husband and I are stunned, shocked, repulsed and have no idea where to go.
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We are worried that if I enroll him in a group for porn addiction, he will learn other things that we would rather he not be exposed to. I am trying to find research about this, but am not getting the information I am seeking. Other than this, my son gets all As, plays a sport, reads voraciously and in general appears to be a responsible kid.
– Very Worried Mom
DEAR MOM: Your son created a fake account to view porn at home — and your longer-term reaction was to give him a smartphone and have his 10-year-old brother confiscate it after school. Really? Your older son’s choice to return to his habit means it is more than youthful curiosity. You should do everything possible to control his access (and be alert about your younger son’s Internet usage).
There is a lot of information on the increase of teens becoming “addicted” to Internet porn that is readily available, including scholarly research papers published by the National Institutes of Health. This information — like the porn your son consumes — is just a click away.
The current research on the impact of pornography on the adolescent brain is alarming. Teens who consume violent porn (the great majority of it involves violence) are much more likely to engage in aggressive or violent sexual behavior — and are far more likely to become sexually active at an earlier age and to have (obviously) unrealistic views about sex and relationships.
Your family needs intervention and professional help and support. Anxiety may be an underlying issue for him. At the outset, you and your husband should try to reduce your hours at work — so one can be home when the kids are there after school. Along with professional counseling and parental involvement, support and communication are crucial for your sons.
DEAR AMY: My granddaughter, who is getting married, decided not to invite her two uncles (my sons) to her wedding because she said they weren’t “close.” This has caused chaos in our family.
Her dad (also my son) feels that his daughter should have the right to invite whomever she wishes to her wedding, even though he is footing the bill. Who is right?
– Upset Grandfather
DEAR GRANDFATHER: Your son is right. He is also wrong. Your granddaughter is right. And wrong.
Including the uncles is the “right” thing to do. However, the simple fact is that if the father of the bride (and the man paying the bills) wanted his brothers to be at this wedding, they would be there.
You cannot control any aspect of this affair, so I suggest you accept their choice — even if you don’t like it.
DEAR AMY: My family was headed down the same dysfunctional path as that described by “Wondering Daughter,” whose mother had a tough childhood because of an alcoholic father.
My moment of clarity came in the parking lot of an AA meeting place: On the one hand I could see my family, my home and my job; on the other I could see an efficiency apartment with the toilet down the hall and a lonely death.
DEAR RD: Many life-changing revelations have occurred in AA parking lots or in rooms populated by fellow travelers clutching cups of stale coffee. Congratulations to you.